**Editor's Note: Click here for a look back at our in-depth coverage of what sent Verizon wireline workers to the picket line in August 2011.**
While finally getting a deal done is a big relief to many Verizon employees, their union representatives and the company, the new contract isn't sitting well with some workers who are concerned they are slowly giving away their rights.
Verizon and a pair of unions – the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers – on Friday announced the ratification of a new, four-year contract that covers approximately 45,000 wireline employees in the eastern U.S. The deal, which goes into effect immediately, runs through Aug. 1, 2015.
The employees have been working without a new contract for more than a year now; they went on strike for a couple of weeks last summer when negotiations broke down, but resumed working again when the two sides said they felt as if they could eventually reach an agreement that worked for both parties. Now, more than a year later, it's happened.
"We're pleased that our associates ratified the agreement," said Marc Reed, Verizon's chief administrative officer.
“This contract ensures that every one of our members will see an improvement in their standard of living," said Chris Shelton, who represents CWA members in New York, New Jersey and New England. "It was a tough fight, and we turned back efforts by the company to gut our contracts. Now, we’ll keep up the fight to expand good jobs for Verizon workers."
But that fight wasn't good enough for employees who think the union caved and the company is wearing them down.
“We all know this is how contracts are dismantled over time and unions are weakened ... " Pam Galpren, a CWA Local 1101 member, told Working In These Times, a social democratic website. " ... [the company thinks] members won’t fight for the future generation, as long as we can protect what we have. Verizon has a long-term plan to weaken our unions, and they are moving progressively forward on that plan."
IBEW Local 827 member Dan McDonald of New Jersey was less eloquent, but to the point in his comments to the same website: "When future employees will not have the same opportunities as me and my family had when I was hired. We failed. All we did was look out for 'ourselves' when the idea of a union is to look out for EVERYBODY! It’s a horse [manure] contract."
The contract calls for an 8.2 percent compounded wage increase over the next three years, and additional cash payments – but it does double health-care premiums over the life of the contract. Also on ratification, CWA members who were fired by Verizon during the August 2011 are going back to work.